Polymer Plant Achieves Record Output

Faster batch turnarounds and better repeatability spur impressive results.

By By Adrian Moody and Ricky Bingham, Synthomer Sdn. Bdn. (Malaysia)

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The alerts instantly bring emerging concerns to the attention of plant personnel, enabling them to obtain detailed information from devices or valves. With knowledge of what’s happening on a real-time basis, staff normally can prevent unexpected upsets and implement predictive maintenance to extend the life of the field devices.

We can even access field-generated data from home simply by dialing in. We do it all the time, frequently avoiding a trip to the plant. The ability to check on the system and process in the evening helps us sleep better, too.

AMS Device Manager takes advantage of Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) to monitor process variables, configure/setup a device, and diagnose that device. EDDL enables access to different device types (pressure, temperature, flow, etc.) from different manufacturers through a single software application.

AMS Device Manager has streamlined the commissioning of fieldbus devices. It allows querying those devices directly from one central location — workers in the plant don’t have to identify specific devices and verify device operation and loop integrity.

Because many of Synthomer’s products wind up in FDA-regulated medical goods, customers frequently audit the Kluang plant. They require easily accessible and accurate information about every batch as well as maintenance histories of field devices. The control system maintains the records needed for batch traceability while asset management software automatically records every contact with field devices and any changes made to their configuration, providing the necessary device documentation.

Challenges and Solutions
Because digital architecture was fairly new at the time and this was the first use of Foundation Fieldbus devices at our company, support for the project and long-term operation were concerns. Malaysia is a long way from home-base in the U.K., so we deliberately selected an easy-to-use system from a vendor that provides reliable local support. In addition, we arranged for:

• training on the DeltaV system and AMS Device Manager in Malaysia and Singapore. Process engineers, maintenance technicians, etc., attended task-oriented sessions to learn what they needed to know for their specific job functions;

• a commissioning engineer with Foundation Fieldbus experience; and

• getting in advance the right tools, including the 375 Field Communicator, which supports fieldbus and can do some bus diagnostics, as well. Our technicians are accustomed to working with a handheld communicator; it was a big comfort factor when it became necessary to work with devices in the field.

The contractor had no previous experience with fieldbus and received no special training in advance. An Emerson engineer was on-site for a week, supervising hardware installation; a Synthomer employee, Mike Gorsen, supervised the contractor. This partnership resulted in an exceptionally short period for installation and commissioning.

These technologies began to pay off almost immediately. We saved time and money during construction, and instrument commissioning was extremely successful. It only took eight days to commission, loop test and water test all field devices for our recent expansion instead of the 30 days set aside for these tasks. When the plant was started, everything functioned perfectly; the very first batch met specification. As a result, we’ve been able to provide the additional volume in this highly competitive market earlier than anyone expected.

Flexibility and ease-of-use of these technologies have enabled Synthomer to cut recipe development time by 15%, allowing for faster turnarounds to meet changing customer demands, to take advantage of raw material availability and pricing, and to capitalize on new business opportunities.

The most important financial benefit has come from achieving productivity beyond our expectations. After three years of operation, output had risen to 54,000 metric tons/year, a 30% increase over the plant’s design capacity of 40,000 metric tons/year.

PlantWeb architecture including AMS Device Manager with the DeltaV automation system made this possible. We relied on the same system for the most recent expansion, resulting in an increase to 130,000 metric tons/year by the end of 2008.


Adrian Moody is process technology manager for Synthomer Sdn. Bhd., Kluang, Malaysia. Ricky Bingham is project manager for Synthomer Sdn. Bhd., Kluang, Malaysia. E-mail them at Adrian.Moody@synthomer.com and Ricky.Bingham@Synthomer.com.

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